About this WINE
Octogenarian brothers Alfred and Rolf Merkelbach have been running their two-hectare Mosel estate since they were young men and, rather than contemplate retirement, their eyes are set on expansion. Many put their contentment down to the fact that neither has married.
Their Urzinger Würzgarten site, downstream from Zeltingen, has a striking reddish clay and slate topsoil, producing particularly spicy, aromatic, weighty wines – hence the vineyard’s name, which literally translates as “Urzig spice garden”.
The brothers use traditional old oak Fuder for vinification. They bought their last in 1970 and firmly believe that each cask imparts its own individual style to the wine it holds. The Merkelbach wines are disarmingly subtle, yet redolent of a plethora of flavours: bacon fat, blackcurrant leaf, briar and rose petals, to name but a few.
Riesling's twin peaks are its intense perfume and its piercing crisp acidity which it manages to retain even at high ripeness levels.
In Germany, Riesling constitutes around 20% of total plantings, yet it is responsible for all its greatest wines. It is planted widely on well-drained, south-facing slate-rich slopes, with the greatest wines coming from the best slopes in the best villages. It produces delicate, racy, nervy and stylish wines that cover a wide spectrum of flavours from steely and bone dry with beautifully scented fruits of apples,apricots, and sometimes peaches, through to the exotically sweet flavours of the great sweet wines.
It is also an important variety in Alsace where it produces slightly earthier, weightier and fuller wines than in Germany. The dry Rieslings can be austere and steely with hints of honey while the Vendages Tardives and Sélection de Grains Nobles are some of the greatest sweet wines in the world.
It is thanks to the New World that Riesling is enjoying a marked renaissance. In Australia the grape has developed a formidable reputation, delivering lime-sherbet fireworks amid the continental climate of Clare Valley an hour's drive north of Adelaide, while Barossa's Eden Valley is cooler still, producing restrained stony lime examples from the elevated granitic landscape; Tasmania is fast becoming their third Riesling mine, combining cool temperatures with high UV levels to deliver stunning prototypes.
New Zealand shares a similar climate, with Riesling and Pinot Gris neck to neck in their bid to be the next big thing after Sauvignon Blanc; perfectly suited is the South Island's Central Otago, with its granitic soils and continental climate, and the pebbly Brightwater area near Nelson. While Australia's Rieslings tend to be full-bodied & dry, the Kiwis are more inclined to be lighter bodied, more ethereal and sometimes off-dry; Alsace plays Mosel if you like.